Interview with Coach João “Celo” Almeida
Carriço: How did you get into esports?
Celo: So I started on Esports, and in gaming overall in Counter-Strike 1.6, with by friends. After Counter Strike Global Offensive launched I started to play it and was able to meet some people that played professionally in Portugal. I was around competitive people in Counter Strike Global Offensive at the time, and that was what lit the fire under me to start competing as well and discover the Esports world.
From that point on, computer games stopped being just a hobby and started to be my life. I wanted to be better and compete, and it was in those initial years in Counter Strike Global Offensive that my hunger to compete was born.
I was on some projects in Counter Strike Global Offensive but nothing big. But that was what gave me the motivation to then come into Valorant and just start competing. Since the beta, I always tried to be involved in a project.
Carriço: Why did you decide to leave CS:GO and switch to Valorant?
Celo: When Valorant was released, I saw that I could have an impact on the Portuguese Esports scene. I wanted to stand out in the scene, and among my friends. So I thought “this is my chance”, so let's go to Valorant.
It was the right move to make. I don't regret anything. The game is amazing, I meet a lot of great people.
Carriço: Why did you choose to become a Valorant coach?
Celo: I always was a very competitive person, and I always liked to be knowledgeable about the things I like a lot. I always search to learn more and inform myself.
When Valorant comes out, an FPS with abilities, different agents, and a lot of ways to think about the game, I thought this is it.
I have a personal problem that limits my ability when it comes to playing, so I decided to switch to the coach slot. It was something that wasn't easy in the beginning because as a player, both in Valorant and CS:GO I never had a coach. So I focused more on what I didn't have when I was a player now as a coach. I think it’s been working, in one way or the other. I can transmit my message to the players, and how I think the game should be played.
Carriço: For those who might not be very familiar with the coach position, what is your job inside the team?
Celo: So on a normal day we train, for six to seven hours. We scrim for two or three hours, then we have a little break and after it, we do some VOD reviews. We scrim one or two more times, it depends on how tired they are. Always in the same map, so we can fix the mistakes we did in the first scrims and saw in the vods, so we can implement that in the next two scrims.
Trying to force the same situations, so we can solve them in different ways, and for the players to adapt.
My work. I start working earlier. Depending on the map I create some ideas to implement in the scrims, to see if they work and against what team compositions they work. Anti-strating. In the week of the officials, you have to prepare and anti-strat against your opponents. You need to prepare your players and think about the scenarios that can occur in the vetos. Especially in the VRL DACH, which is a best-of-two league. Which sometimes is a little bit tricky.
Carriço: How do you as a team prepare for opponents?
Celo: Before I was working with an analyst now I’m alone. He would help me a lot in terms of statistics. I’m also a person very connected with poker, and statistics, and that is very important in order to have information about what your team is doing on the map.
How many trades there were, and how many opening duels is your team winning? When you plan the spike how many times are you in a 5v4 or 4v3 situation? That’s very important.
Carriço: How important is it to have a great team environment, do you think in order to find success a good team environment outside the game is necessary?
Celo: I think it’s super important. First of all, taking into account that we are playing professional league, this is your job, so you need to create an amicable environment with your teammates. It’s always a plus if you have a good connection with your teammates.
You will get to a consensus faster, you can discuss aspects so of the game without being a toxic discussion. Just debating ideas. There are also moments where you are down, and if you have a good relationship with your teammates and they care about you it's going to help you a lot.
In this relegation tournament, we lost the first map. We go into the second map and are losing 6-0, and the team started to support each other and lift each other up as I have never seen before. It’s very important to have your teammates' support.
Carriço: What are some of the things you think you guys as a team need to fix or improve?
Celo: I think, first of all, a structure needs to be created. In my opinion, the management was really weak. It was me, our manager and some media people. We have the discord where it was just me the players our manager, and the CEO who would send a message before the game started.
We don't have analysts, we had a performance coach, our manager was supposed to schedule meetings with him but they just wouldn't happen. There was no “presure” from the organization for things to happen, and they didn't show interest. We need to create a structure.
Carriço: Were you expecting something close to a tier 1 organization level?
Celo: Yes for sure. I was hoping to get there and have a team to back me up. But I entered the team and it was me and the players. So yeah I was hoping for more.
Carriço: Do you follow the VCE league Celo?
Celo: Yes of course. A lot of controversies right now. In my opinion, it’s a little bit sad (the vce relegation qualifiers rule) I tried t understand it but I can't. It’s very hard for me to see this happen. Players wanting to play, and will have to either go to a lower level or don't play for a split. Or will have to try and enter an organization, that puts the players in a very difficult situation.
If my team right now disbanded, I don't think I could go around talking with people to try and get into an organization otherwise I wouldn't be able to play.
Carriço: What is needed in order for the Portuguese scene to grow?
Celo: I don't think we should always point the finger at the tournament organizer. Riot Games are the ones that make the decisions, if they don't want you to make the tournament you won't do the tournament period.
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot we can do without Riot Games approval. What we can do is give them our feedback and ask for answers.
Something I would like to happen, happened when I was playing the VCE, which was a meeting with the representative of each team in Portugal with someone that would then send the feedback from that reunion to Riot Games. I don't know if people continue to do this. But you can see that something needs to change.
People are more and more losing interest in playing in Portugal. If they don't play in Portugal, it’s very hard to get a spot in a team outside of Portugal.
Carriço: What are your goals as a coach for the remaining of this year?
Celo: I still have every option on the table. Depending on decisions from the organizations, if I don't stay in the project, I would love to continue working on a VRL team. What I want is to play versus the best and with the best. I know I’m capable of that. I already have some options, if I leave the organization I’m sure I will find another organization to call home.
But I also pondered about coming back to Portugal for the second Split of the VCE that starts in September. The offseason will be until December, so I have time to come back to Portugal, do some funny things in the VCE, and then search for a team in the VRL. Let’s see what the future holds.
Carriço: Is there anything else you want to say Celo?
Celo: For the Valorant community in Portugal, continue to fight, and continue to provide feedback for the league to improve.
Carriço: Celo thank you a lot for accepting to do this interview. It was a pleasure talking with you, and I wish you all the best for the future. I also hope I can interview you again in the future.